NHL Entry Draft Week: 2016
The Hamilton Bulldogs were the youngest team in the Ontario Hockey League following the January trade deadline. There were ten young men who played on the Bulldogs roster throughout the season who are eligible for the NHL Entry draft for the first time this year. Considering the volume of ’98 births (and one late ’97), it’s no surprise that the Bulldogs had five players featured on the NHL Central Scouting mid-term rankings, along with five names appear on their final rankings.
Over the past week, I’ve featured a profile on the likeliest players who will be drafted by the Bulldogs this season. This includes three players who went undrafted in 2015, but produced seasons that should force scouting teams to at least discuss their ability with management.
The 2016 NHL Draft Series
- Who Do We Have With Ben Gleason
- Who Do We Have With Cole Candella
- Who Do We Have With Ondrej Kachyna
- Who Do We Have With Brandon Saigeon
- Who Do We Have With Luke Kutkevicius
- Who Do We Have With Matt Luff
- Who Do We Have With Trent Fox
- Who Do We Have With Connor Hicks
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft stands out in recent memory as a draft where NHL teams shied away from the Ontario Hockey League, selecting only 31 players from the league, well below the status quo. 2016 is a bumper crop season for OHL talent, don’t be surprised if there are over 45 players who selected on Friday and Saturday. The Belleville Bulls (and as a result, the Hamilton Bulldogs) did not have a roster player drafted, a bit surprising as there were five young men who were ranked in the top 200.
Lemcke has darkhorse potential
One name that hasn’t been brought up at all is Justin Lemcke. I think it’s fair to say it shocked a lot of Belleville fans last season when he wasn’t drafted. He was consistently projected to go as high as the third round. Lemcke was invited to the draft combine, and preformed well on the physical tests. His off-season was productive, as he spent time with Vancouver Canucks’ rookie development camp in July, and attended the Detroit Red Wings training camp in September. He came into Hamilton looking driven and committed to not only improving his personal chances of being a re-entry pick, but leading the defensive corps.
Teams might recognize the level of commitment that Lemcke had to the team as a sidelined leader. There was talk back in October that Lemcke had suffered a season ending injury. Upon receiving this kind of news, many junior player may have packed their bags and headed back home. Lemcke stayed in Hamilton to rehabilitate his leg, and was counted on to help promote the new organization with young fans. Scouts probably didn’t get much of a chance to see him shine after his return to the line up in March. His fitness level was below that of his teammates, probably because you can’t hit the treadmill with an air-cast on. Don’t rule out a team who looked at him last year being impressed with his desire and his leadership.
I made the mistake last June predicting which teams would maybe be interested in the Belleville players, based on playing style and team trends. It’s truly a fools game to guess who could end up where, but I do have a wish list of sorts. I have my fingers crossed that there are at least two of the players listed above who are not only drafted, but to Canadian teams. There would be a significant marketing opportunity for the organization that is still trying to build a following in the city if rivals such as Toronto and Ottawa or Toronto and Boston were to select Bulldogs players.
For the players who aren’t selected, let that feeling fuel you into becoming a better player. Push yourself to go further. All the best boys!
Feature Image: Aaron Bell / OHL Images